After an impressive 2014 season, "Stanford Steve" Coughlin, of SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, and Chris Fallica, of ESPN Stats & Information and College GameDay, are back. Every Wednesday during the college football season, they'll give their best bets for picking the weekend's top college football games.
2015 season record:
Fallica: 28-11-2 ATS (last week: 4-3-1)
Coughlin: 16-12-2 ATS (last week: 3-2)
2014 season record:
Fallica: 44-40 ATS (52.4 percent)
Coughlin: 45-28-1 ATS (60.8 percent)
Note: Against the spread (ATS)/total picks are in bold. Odds courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Michigan Wolverines (-7.5) vs. Michigan State Spartans
Fallica: Talk about a huge swing in preseason perception. I feel like I might be getting suckered into a public favorite in Michigan, but I just don't have much faith in backing the underdog here. The Spartans have looked like a shell of themselves from the past two years, with injuries playing a big role in that. Michigan State has slid to 62nd in defensive efficiency and has allowed more 80-yard drives than any team in the nation. Michigan has done a great job eliminating negative plays and keeping the sticks moving. Anticipation in Ann Arbor for a breakthrough win is through the roof -- and that's a dangerous spot for a team which wasn't expected to arrive this quickly.
The Spartans have slopped around with the bottom of the Big Ten the past two weeks, as well as through the majority of their nonconference schedule. That, coupled with the recent dominance over Michigan, leads me to believe the bill comes due this week. But buyer beware, as the Wolverines could be overvalued; their record might be better than the team actually is. The play here is over 40.5.
Pick: Michigan 27, Michigan State 24 (over the total)
Coughlin: If you told me before the season that Harbaugh and the Wolverines would come into this game as more than a touchdown favorite, I would have given you a lot of money. But how good are these teams? Michigan State hasn't covered a game all year and Michigan has beaten up on some inferior competition. So, what gives? Especially when you have a coach who it seems hates everything, and only smiles when he says the words "Go Green"; and on the other side you have an absolute wild man, who wears a lanyard and khaki's and always seems like his hat is a size too big for his head. I have no idea what's going to happen at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday in The Big House, but I'll just take the points, because I trust Connor Cook more than Jake Rudock.
ATS pick: Michigan State 27, Michigan 24
Florida Gators (+9.5) at LSU Tigers
Fallica: We're going to know a lot more about LSU after this week. Brandon Harris will have to make a few throws in order for LSU to remain unbeaten, and the Florida corners are going to be trusted to handle the LSU wideouts in one-on-one situations. And if the Gator corners can, despite how good Leonard Fournette is, the Tigers will struggle to do a lot on the ground. Albeit vs. lowly South Carolina, Harris is coming off his best game of the year -- take a peek at how Greyson Lambert did against the Gamecocks compared to other SEC teams -- and now he gets the fourth-rated defense in the country. People are going to jump ship on the Gators with the suspension of Will Grier, but I see it as an opportunity to grab a hungry team with an elite defense getting points. Don't sell the Gators short here. They may not win, but it won't be easy for LSU.
ATS pick: LSU 20, Florida 17
Coughlin: Why does it seem like LSU plays at home every week? Oh, it's because the Tigers haven't played on the road since September. The Gators obviously took a huge hit this week, as their young QB Grier has been suspended for a year, and they are now left to start Treon Harris, who began the year as the starting QB but also served a suspension for off-the-field issues. My biggest question is: How much is Fournette covering up to me what seems like a still youthful LSU squad? I don't think they are playing as well as Les Miles would like on the defensive side of the ball, but this game will be a night game in the world famous Tiger Stadium, which is the best home-field advantage in college football. I think Florida gets in the Heisman front-runner's way enough to make the Tigers offense one-dimensional and the Gators hang around in the game. I'll be a sucker and take the points with Florida.
ATS pick: LSU 20, Florida 11
Texas A&M Aggies +4.5 vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Fallica: This is the biggest game at Kyle Field since ... maybe ever. Just like two weeks ago at Georgia, Alabama is in the role of lower-ranked team under Nick Saban -- a position the Tide have excelled in (FPI actually has the Aggies as a slight favorite here). After a great game against Georgia, Jake Coker tossed a couple of picks, was sacked twice and had a below-average QBR. It is going to be crucial for Derrick Henry to have success on early downs because if the Tide find themselves in third-and-long, Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett could be in the backfield all night. I know it was 59-0 last year and I know the struggles for Kevin Sumlin at home vs. ranked teams, but I sense the time is now. The skill of Kyle Allen, Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds will prove to be too much. John Chavis' LSU defense held the Tide to 4.2 yards per play and nearly half their plays went for zero or negative yards last year. I picked the Aggies to win the SEC before the season began and nothing they have done on the field thus far has swayed that belief.
ATS pick: Texas A&M 31, Alabama 24
Coughlin: I'm really excited for this matchup as we can finally continue the Alabama test. How I judge everyone in the SEC West is how they play against coach Saban and the Tide. I still hold Ole Miss in the highest regard because the Rebels beat the Crimson Tide, in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies come in undefeated but I have to admit, I have come away from watching them wanting more, especially from their offense. We have heard about how they have the best receiving corps in the country, I just simply want more from former five-star recruits like Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil. The fact is, there isn't a better time to showcase your talents than when you play the Tide ... and one thing I love that's on A&M's side is the addition of Chavis, who admitted facing Alabama and the guy who got rid of him at Tennessee (Kiffin) gets him a little more fired up. I'll take the home 'dog here.
ATS pick: Alabama 24, Texas A&M 21
Fallica: Florida State is an overvalued team as evidenced by its 5-12 ATS mark in its past 17 games as a favorite (2-6 in its past eight games, with one coming on a late non-offensive TD). I thought I had sworn off backing Louisville after the Clemson loss, but the Cardinals showed something in their upset win at NC State. If they can pull another upset here, it's not impossible to see the Cardinals winning out. Louisville has played its best lately as a 'dog (6-2 ATS, four outright wins). The Cardinals' defense should give FSU fits as the 'Noles are coming off an emotional comeback win over Miami. As he did against Miami, it will be Dalvin Cook to the rescue.
ATS pick: Florida State 23, Louisville 21
Coughlin: Another week, another uninspiring effort for what I believe is the most overrated team in the country. Where would the Seminoles be if they didn't have Cook? I like Louisville in this spot for two reasons. One, it's a noon kickoff at Doak Campbell Stadium and it's just not the same kind of environment there for the home team to feed off their crowd. Secondly, the 'Noles might be a little down after beating their rival last week. I also do like the fact that Louisville has played way better competition coming into this week. I'll take Bobby Petrino and his Cardinals in this one.
ATS pick: Louisville 23, FSU 20
UCLA Bruins (+6.5) at Stanford Cardinal
Fallica: Stanford has absolutely had UCLA's number the past six years, winning all seven matchups and holding the Bruins to 13.7 PPG, including a 31-10 win last year at the Rose Bowl when UCLA had Pac-12 title aspirations. The Bruins have had 12 days to stew over the upset loss to Arizona State and the Myles Jack departure from the team. After falling behind Arizona State, UCLA got away from the run (28 carries for 62 yards) so I would expect to see Paul Perkins get a healthy dose of carries. Both teams blew out Arizona and maybe the Stanford win over USC is taken down a notch after last week's events. Feels like a good place to grab the points, and maybe the outright win as well.
ATS pick: UCLA 30, Stanford 28
Arizona State Sun Devils (+6.5) at Utah Utes
Fallica: Since its loss to USC, Arizona State has scored on 14-of-29 drives with just two turnovers in its past two games; predictably, the Sun Devils have won both. Utah again won the turnover game against Cal -- forcing six -- in the three wins over Michigan, Oregon and Cal, and the Utes are +8 in turnover margin (forced 12) and have scored 38 points off TO in the past two games. I can't imagine that type of turnover luck will continue. Utah doesn't rank in the top 20 in either offensive or defensive efficiency so that even further emphasizes its reliance on turnovers and special teams. Utah hasn't been able to beat ASU since joining the Pac-12 with the past two meetings decided by a combined four points. I expect another close one here.
ATS pick: Utah 34, Arizona State 31
USC Trojans (+6.5) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Fallica: This game kind of reminds me of the Trojans' last trip to South Bend when two weeks prior Lane Kiffin had been fired and the Trojans went out and nearly pulled the small upset over Notre Dame. USC has talent, there is no debating that. If the Trojans play the way they did at Arizona State, they will walk out of South Bend with a win. Clearly something was up last week with the lethargic offensive performance against Washington, but my hunch tells me the Trojans will rally around Clay Helton as it did in the bowl game two years ago. Playing the game will be the easiest part of the week for USC and I suspect it will give Notre Dame a ton of problems Saturday night.
ATS pick: USC 27, Notre Dame 24
Coughlin: So a 4-1 team is getting points from a 2-4 team that has lost four straight games? That makes completely no sense, so give me the favorite. This is pretty simple, plus when I read some stuff about the Yellow Jackets this week, after losing their fourth-straight game, terms like "back to the basics" and "we have to find an identity" were thrown around. Why do I bring those up? Because I've been there, and those phrases mean that the coaching staff isn't happy with the players and their production so they are simplifying things and focusing on the essentials. I will guarantee Georgia Tech had a good week of practice. They really need a win.
ATS pick: Georgia Tech 31, Pitt 20